WHO call to raise tobacco price raises controversy

(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to increase the price of tobacco in the hope of reducing the number of smokers has given way to polemic in a country where smoking is widespread. اضافة اعلان

While some assert that raising tobacco prices is bound to reduce the number of smokers, others say that smokers will not be deterred from buying, but rather resort to smugglers.

A few days ago, the coordinator of non-communicable diseases at the WHO office in Amman, Hala Bu Kardana, called for raising the prices of tobacco products during a session on the role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use.

The average per capita spending in Jordan on manufactured cigarettes is about JD60.3 per month, and this does not include the expenses on shisha and vaping products, according to statements by the Ministry of Health.

Minister of Health Firas Al-Hawri said that smoking feeds the state JD900 million annually, but the cost of treating patients due to smoking is JD1.6 billion per year, a loss estimated at JD700 million, according to Khaberni.

Jordan is considered one of the top three countries in the world in smoking, despite having signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, and the issuance of Public Health Law No. 47 of 2008 and its amendments, as a legislative response to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

MP Farid Haddad told Jordan News that it should be a government priority “to reduce smoking by working to promote a culture of anti-smoking, like other countries in the world, and applying global rules to smokers”.

According to him raising prices of tobacco products will not limit or reduce the number of smokers.

And while higher prices will not be “a deterrent for smokers”, he believes that “we will notice increased smuggling of tobacco with toxic components, which will constitute a bigger danger to health”.

“If the price of tobacco is raised, smokers will certainly not leave this habit, but will go to lesser quality products,” he stressed.

But while he said that “the government should not increase the burden on citizens who resort to smoking under difficult circumstances”, he also stressed that the cost of treating patients with health problems caused by smoking is very high, and “the government should take measures to deal with smokers”.

Economist Wajdi Makhamreh told Jordan News that Jordan is “one of the top countries that consumes tobacco, globally, and the government’s policy of raising tobacco prices to limit this phenomenon might be a good thing”.

At the same time, he said, “the government may achieve additional revenues that could be invested in projects that benefit the society, such as supporting the poor, and the Development and Employment Fund”.

Raed Al-Ajouri, owner of a tobacco shop, told Jordan News that every time the government raises the prices of cigarettes, “consumers start changing the type of tobacco they use to ones with lower prices, or they buy from smugglers”. 

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